NMA Opening Analysis: Fallout

Discussion in 'NMA News and Information' started by Brother None, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all

    Apr 3, 2003
    GameBanshee writer, Gamasutra blogger, all around RPG knowhow guy Eric Schwarz (aka sea) has written an opinion piece inspecting the opening of Fallout, and how it succeeds at introducing you to the game world and mechanics. Not much new material for our regular readers, of course, but a very worthwhile resource to link to the next time someone is telling you "I can't play Fallout, it's too inaccessible".<blockquote>Fallout teaches the fundamentals of its interface in surprisingly intuitive and covert ways. This is accomplished through the corpse near the player - after all, just about everyone's going to want to inspect it. To do so, Fallout requires the player right-click to change the cursor to "interact mode" and then left-click on the corpse once more. This opens up the looting panel, which clearly displays both the player's inventory and the container's own items (in this case, a machete). When the player's done, however, another problem appears - the player can't move anymore! Well, right-clicking worked once, so what about again? Sure as can be, a second right-click returns the cursor to movement mode and lets the player continue exploring.

    But what about the machete on the corpse? Provided the player can read, he/she will no doubt notice the "INV" icon prominently displayed on the user interface. Clicking it opens up the inventory, where the player will notice a few things: first, that he/she hasn't been sent out without supplies; second, that the machete appeared at the top of the player's list; third, that any items can be equipped in the "Item 1" and "Item 2" slots, not just weapons. Thus, the player has learned not just how to use the interface for moving, interacting, looting, and equipping items, but also that items can be used in the weapon slots - suggesting not only that, say, Stimpaks can be used to heal one's self, but that they can be used to heal others as well.

    Although this seems counter-intuitive and difficult to figure out, this is actually one of the most effective "invisible" tutorials I've ever seen. With a single sequence, the game has taught the player the fundamental differences between movement mode and interaction mode, how to change between the two modes, how to interact with the environment, how to manage inventory, and a whole other mode of interacting with the world, through items. It's not mandatory, but unless the designers wanted to break immersion with tutorial messages, this is about as quick and effective a way as you can teach the player these things.</blockquote>
  2. WorstUsernameEver

    WorstUsernameEver But best title ever!

    May 28, 2010
    I'm afraid that people who find Fallout inaccessible will still find it too inaccessible precisely because the title trusts the players to make the deductions themselves instead of spelling them out. :(
  3. valcik

    valcik So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Dec 20, 2008
    Good work, sea.
    I would like to add just one minor point: some people have mastered most of the game mechanics before the actual game release, even without manual, while rampaging on Junktown map in the demoversion.
    Brahmins and minigun, that will teach them how to play! :twisted:
  4. egalor

    egalor Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Jun 20, 2007
    Right, dammit :) If one can't figure out how FO interface works, he'd better get interested in the game, first.
  5. Izual

    Izual Pipe rifle & chopsticks

    Sep 18, 2009
    They tried to make this type of opening even better in Fallout 2... And judging by the people saying "I'd like to play Fallout 2, but I won't. I don't want to go in the temple of trials", they failed :p
  6. SimpleMinded

    SimpleMinded Vault Fossil

    Jun 17, 2003
    If only gamers today could recognize and appreciate the introduction's subtle guidance. When GoG gave away Fallout 1, a few people I know finally downloaded it and gave it a try. One quit shortly after starting, saying that the "intro quest" seemed to never finish so he got tired and quit. The intro quest he was thinking of... was searching for the water chip.

    Though even in that regard, the game does a nice job of slowly bringing you into things. Placing Shady Sands right next to Vault 15, giving you the highlight on the map so you start moving in that direction. The game is daunting, but it works hard to subtly guide newbies.
  7. Gorkoan

    Gorkoan First time out of the vault

    Apr 29, 2012
    Well, not really. They were forced to include it by the producers, it wasn't something they them-self wanted to include.
  8. sea

    sea Vault Senior Citizen

    Oct 5, 2009
    The opening of Fallout 2 is very weak. Even if you discount the Temple of Trials (which sucks for a number of reasons, i.e. too "tutorialy", immersion-breaking, implausible), the early stages generally aren't very good and don't adequately prepare the player. The weapons you start out with suck, making going melee early attractive only for it to become much less useful later in the game, and the early combat simply cannot prepare you for dealing with the hordes of human enemies you run into immediately after leaving the starting town. Sure, you eventually learn to run away, but it lacks a lot of the gradual pacing of Fallout.

    Meanwhile, the goals are unfocused: go to Klamath and talk to Vic, Vic isn't there... and then what? The rest of the town goes to waste (as far as teaching tools go) because 95% of its content isn't really relevant to the main goal - interesting, yes, but none of the challenges are really linked by gameplay or story, it's just a random collection of (admittedly entertaining) things to do. Fallout has a very strong sense of movement and direction in its opening before the world opens up. Fallout 2 feels like it takes 2-3 hours at least before the "real game" begins, and should you want to skip the early quests, be prepared to be under-equipped and under-leveled even more than usual.
  9. SharkClub

    SharkClub Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Dec 6, 2008
    Very nice article, sea. A lot of things explained that I failed to notice until now.
  10. Zumbs

    Zumbs Lurking Swamp Thing

    Oct 11, 2008
    I remember taking ages to figure out that cities had multiple areas. Oh, how much started making sense when you could visit the entire city!

    On the topic of the silly/annoying tutorials plaguing modern CRPGs, it continues to baffle me that most games do not include a way to sidestep the tutorial and start wherever it ends with whatever loot and xp the tutorial gives.
  11. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010
    I think you've written a similar analysis of FNV introduction somewhere on these boards, albeit a lot shorter.
    Both reads are very interesting and instructive.

    I'm wondering now though - when original devs made Fallout, did they think up all these elements, subtle markers and pointers, or did some of those stuff just...happen? Small things perfectly falling into place, just like that.
  12. Sobboth

    Sobboth It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Aug 29, 2010
    Very good pieces of writting, i didn't realise the easy introduction of fallout's mechanics the first time i played the game and i must admit it was excellent.
    I would have add two things extremely important though : the high resolution patch and the ability to speed up the game.
    I played fallout 1 when it was release back in 1997. My screen was a "17" and it was fine.
    Later i replayed it on my "24" screen and without the high resolution patch i would never have replayed it, the original low resolution really hurt the eye and is unmanageable on modern big screen IMHO.
    I also replayed it 10% or 20% faster (don't remember), and sometimes 50%or more faster in combat (configuranble hot key, very easy to change the speed of the game, temple of trial done in 2 min max hehe).
    I tried twice to play wasteland and give up quite very early because the resolution killed me (not the graphic in themselves), the style was even quite ok).
    With a high resolution patch i'm sure i would have played the game back then.
  13. Alphadrop

    Alphadrop A right proper chap.

    Aug 21, 2008
    Most of my friends can't play Fallout 1 or 2 due to that. The lack of the funneling contraints of modern rpgs means they get mentally lost and end up killing everyone just because they can and getting frustrated that it impedes progress.

    Also I missed Ed on my first playthough of Fallout 1. :V
  14. SimpleMinded

    SimpleMinded Vault Fossil

    Jun 17, 2003
    Haha wow, I forgot all about that. I was the same way! It wasn't until I read about parts of Junktown that I had never heard of that I discovered this was the case. Changed the whole experience when you could visit a lot more areas.
  15. Radman

    Radman It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jul 12, 2007
    Wow thats dire,

    A few of my mates are very similar though and seem to be unable to cope when left to their own devices, I firmly believe this is down to the modern games hand holding players in EVERYTHING they do.

    You can honestly draw parallels with the American Movie Market - American films tend to treat the audience as some sort of brain-dead fool, especially true in action and sci-fi films where characters just blurt out the bleedin obvious every five seconds:

    "If we dont disarm the bomb it'll EXPLODE, destroying the station along with all onboard.... Ourselves included..."

    REALLY?! Did you NEED to tell us?

    I do think people are getting dumber.
  16. sea

    sea Vault Senior Citizen

    Oct 5, 2009
    That's a good question, but I'm willing to err on the side of "yes." Sometimes there are happy accidents, and sometimes there are things that just coincidentally sort of work out, but Fallout's opening has just as much grace and subtlety to it as the first few seconds of stage 1-1 in Super Mario Bros., with the game's design focused on intuitively rolling out concepts to the player. Fallout is obviously a much more complicated game than Mario Bros., of course, so it can't really achieve the same "elegance" but honestly, 90% of game design is stuff that players normally never even notice unless they're looking for it.

    As for the comment about the Water Chip quest "never ending", I can sort of see where that player is coming from. Usually RPGs have early short and simple goals to ease players into gameplay. Fallout has a couple of those (curing the guy in Shady Sands using antidote, clearing the Radscoprion cave, etc.) but usually those sorts of things are either made extremely obvious early on or worked into the story, i.e. Farmer Ted sending you off to pick radishes and hunt cute bunnies for 20 minutes before the story starts. I certainly don't think Fallout should change to accommodate that OCD sort of attention span, but I can definitely understand why some players would be turned off by the lack of obvious rewards and visible progress, especially if their standard for an RPG is something like Diablo or even Mass Effect.
  17. Alphadrop

    Alphadrop A right proper chap.

    Aug 21, 2008
    Just out of interest about game introductions Sea, have you watched Egoraptor's take on how the first level of Megaman X introduces the player to all the mechanics of the game on Youtube?.
    If you can get past the patented Egoraptor...ness it's quite interesting how companies go about this in different ways, some subtle and some less so.
  18. Sub-Human

    Sub-Human -

    May 31, 2011
    I agree. It amazes me that most games nowdays require a tutorial - they're all the same, anyways. Playing through Crysis 2, I had to be stopped to learn of the new feature, instead of telling me about it in the beginning so I'd see if I needed to use it or not.

    Gets on my nerves, interrupts the game, spoils the experience. I guess most of the 12 year old pals will have the same attitude after they've played a few games here and there.
  19. UniversalWolf

    UniversalWolf eaten by a grue.

    Aug 28, 2005
    I don't think they ever anticipated human bodies with coconuts where the head should be trying to play the game -- not as many of them as try these days, anyway.
  20. Surf Solar

    Surf Solar So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Aug 20, 2009
    "Machete on corpse", heh. :P It took me a while to notice I can do that in JA2. Nice article, sea!